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When Mariyappan Thangavelu and Varun Singh Bhati made history at the Paralympics in Rio by winning gold and bronze medals in the T-42 High Jump category, Indians following the story on social media were perplexed that the historic moment was not playing out live on their TV sets.
Even as social media erupted at the first news of the triumph, the people who turned on their TV sets had to face disappointment as there was no national broadcaster covering the Paralympics. The Paralympics that kick started on September 7 in Rio, is the first instance of the summer games happening in the host’s winter season. India’s delegation of 19 athletes (16 men, 3 women) this year, is its largest ever team for the Paralympics ever since the inception of the tournament.
In a conversation with The Manipal Journal, India’s bronze medal winning hero Varun Singh Bhati, expressed his dissatisfaction over the media coverage Paralympians get. “They should show us live. Our events should be broadcasted live so that the people get to know how hard we have worked to get here and what it takes to get here”, he added.
The Paralympics is not being broadcasted in India, thanks to the lack of interest shown by the national broadcasters. Star Sports, which telecasted over 3000 hours of Olympic coverage in eight dedicated channels decided not to bid for the Paralympics. Neither did Sony, Ten Sports or public broadcaster Doordarshan This comes at a time when India’s medal hopes are higher than they have ever been, with 14 out of the 19 athletes having entered the big stage, ranked below 10 in their respective games. The double medal haul from the High Jump event eclipses India’s performance at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London when India won just the solitary silver medal.
However, there was a strong social media reaction to the medal winning performances. Narendra Modi, Abhinav Bindra and Sachin Tendulkar lead the line of a number of celebrities tweeting their reaction to the win.
“India is elated! Congratulations to Mariyappan Thangavelu on winning a gold & Varun Singh Bhati for the bronze at the #Paralympics,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the historic win.
But Indians across the country could not join in the elation until the story was broken on social media and would no doubt prefer to have watched the Paralympic Games on their television sets than follow updates on social media.
Edited by Prajwal Bhat